The 2022 auction season is kicking in with all sorts of opportunities for collectors and new buyers to find bargains and treasures. In the last two years, online auctions have taken off.  Here are some tips and suggestions if you want to take advantage of this fun way to buy.

  • What are you looking to buy? Are you looking for a new “old” dining room table or collecting toys or old advertising? Many of the auction houses specialize in the types of items they sell, and some are generalists.  If you are looking for a particular style or type of item, our  Business Directory – Kovels lists auction houses and includes their specialties. Or you can look on one of the sites that host auction sales such as Bidsquare or Liveauctioneers. Or you can search one of the hosting sites for a particular item and wait until it comes up for sale or sign up and get notified.

  • You have found the item or the type of furniture you are looking to buy, or you just want to look through some sales for something that will look great and be functional in your house. What now? Look at the online catalog or for some high-end sales there is a printed catalog available both often include bidding rules. It is sent free to big buyers or available for sale. Determine your top price or what you want to pay. The catalogs show you the estimated price, along with a picture and description. The estimate is based on what the auction company thinks the item will sell for or sometimes the person who put the item up for sale set a reserve price, the lowest amount accepted for the sale. Items are listed in the catalog by what is called a “lot” number.

  • Don’t be nervous! You control the process and the amount that you are willing to pay.  So first, know your costs, how much you are willing to pay and don’t get auction fever and bid more than you planned. When calculating how much you are willing to pay be sure to include the added costs. These include Buyer’s Premiums (a percentage of the winning bid charged by the auction house that may range from 15% to over 30%), shipping and handling, credit card usage, storage, buying from a third-party site — not the auction company’s site, buying online and not in person (if it is an option) etc. Know the add-ons before you bid so you are not surprised by your final bill.

  • Before you bid get all the information that you need. If the auction doesn’t describe the condition of the piece, contact the auction house via email or phone and ask for more information.  Many auction houses will have an expert who will FaceTime with you to show you the piece noting any condition issues.  They also open drawers and show you all sides of objects that interest you.

  • Now you are ready.  Be sure to register well before the auction begins so the auction house or hosting company can confirm payment information. You can watch the sale progress and be ready to bid when it is your turn, or you can leave your maximum bid (an absentee bid) with auction house ahead of time. An absentee bid is put in one “jump” over the highest bid at the time.  So, if a table is $800 and you left an absentee bid of $1200 the auctioneer will bid only $900, then more as needed. The auction house will store the piece for a few days. They will also pack and ship and store longer for a charge.


Good luck finding your next treasure!